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Big River Chautauqua tells story of aviation

BONNE TERRE — Plans are being made for the ninth year of Big River Chautauqua.

This year Chautauqua will celebrate the 100th anniversary of manned flight. The three-day event will be held July 17-19 on the Bonne Terre Elementary ballfields.

To tell the story of aviation, the Big River Chautauqua Committee has selected three pioneer pilots to speak to the community. Orville Wright will be the first performer, followed by Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.

“This will probably be one of the most exciting Chautauquas,” said Sherry Greminger, chairman of the Big River Chautauqua Committee. “It will appeal to all age groups because of the familiarity of all the characters involved.”

Jim Spence of Reynoldsville, Ohio, will portray Orville Wright. Spence, an actor, historian and storyteller, has been performing as Wright for 17 years. His presentations of Wright include such diverse audiences as Institute of Astronautics and Aeronautics, a World War II bomber group ad elementary schools.

Amelia Earhart will be performed by Pat Jordan of the American Historical Theatre in Philadelphia. Jordan is an actress with a long list of accomplishments in theatre and musical concert. She has appeared in a number of films and commercials and has been working in historical theatre for the past several years.

Jordan has been portraying six women from history including Earhart for the past five years. She even portrayed Earhart at the National Archives.

Steve Carroll of Brick, N.J., will portray Charles Lindbergh. Carroll is an actor and Lindbergh scholar. He has developed a three-act play on Lindbergh which he has been performing for a year. He will reduce his play to 45 to 50 minutes to fit with the Chautauqua format.

Carroll has received praise for his portrayal by Reeve Lindbergh, one of Lindbergh’s daughters.

Each of the actors will perform as their character for 30-45 minutes before taking questions as the character and then the scholar. The actors will be available each day to speak to various groups and organizations.

Pre-show entertainment will be held prior to each show.

The Chautauqua Singers will take the stage nightly before the performance, singing aviation-themed songs of the early 1900s.

In addition, mini-plays will be performed prior to each Chautauqua performance.

The first play will be a light-hearted play about Earhart. The play will be divided over two nights. A shorter play will be performed about the Wright brothers.

“We are very proud that we are in our ninth year of bringing entertainment coupled with education to the whole area,” Greminger said.

In order to keep providing Chautauquas, the committee will be seeking more help in the way of donations.

“It takes over $10,000 to bring this event to the community,” Greminger said.

This year, the group only received $1,500 from the Missouri Humanities Council. This is the last year the group will receive funding from the council.

“Next year we will be entirely on our own,” Greminger said. “We are hoping our contributors will continue to support us and those who haven’t will come forward so we can keep this event in St. Francois County.”

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